What I really wanted to say in that last post before it wrote itself into something different

I don’t often like photographs of myself. I am ok with the person I see in the mirror. She is a good person. And she is not heinous. But the camera does not love her and is not her friend. I’m ok with that, even if others aren’t.

But I there is something I like about this photograph of myself in front of the home in which my father was raised:

Even though it accentuates things I don’t particularly love about myself (the way my eyes disappear and my lips sort of flatline into almost nothing), I like this photo because it reminds me of a few traits–both external and internal–I inherited from my dad. From my dad’s side of the family. In this photo I see something of my grandmother and my aunts. A steely strength and resilience I admire in them and want to develop better in myself. These are the traits that help me get up out of bed even when fatigue, arthritis or the realities of what the day might hold are somewhat daunting. These are the traits that hold me up during hard times or when I get bad news or have to deal with something particularly hurtful. These are the traits that let me look people square in the eyes and tell them the truth even when I’m not sure they really want to hear it.

(Not pictured is the playful twinkle in the eyes. I hope I still have a little bit of that left in me. That twinkle that used to get me into trouble when friendly was misread as flirty.)

Enough about me. Please tell me about a trait–either physical or otherwise–you inherited and which you have come to appreciate.

Over the river and through the woods

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go…”

Me at the house “in town.” Can you believe my grandparents raised 11 children–a good chunk of them tall strapping boys–in that house?

This song used to remind me of our annual family road trip from the Pacific Northwest to my grandparents’ house in Randolph, Utah. The one that, I didn’t realize till much later, always coincided with branding season at the family ranch. We went to my grandmother’s house a few other times. I remember at least one Christmas when the house was full of aunts and uncles and cousins and my sister and I wore matching Christmas pajamas. I also remember the time my father drove all night straight through (back then, the speed limit was 55 and the trip took at least 16-17 hours) so we could attend my Aunt Darlene’s wedding. I don’t think she knew we were coming. It was my first time meeting my Uncle Doug, who I thought looked remarkably like a former swim teacher I’d had. So much so I embarrassed myself, finally getting up the nerve to ask him if he’d ever taught swimming in Oregon. (Of course he hadn’t.) I remember Aunt Darlene’s bouquet of yellow roses. I remember her bouquet because I caught her bouquet. I tried to dry/save it. But it didn’t turn out so well. One time my grandpa asked me to drive the pick-up (it was stick, of course) to the ranch house to get something for him. I have no idea how old I was, but my younger sister, who was with me at the time, remembers I had a difficult time reaching the clutch with my foot and also seeing out the front window at the same time. She also recalls I killed it. (Of course I did. I didn’t know how to drive!) I also remember the time my grandmother sent me into town in her giant blue boat of a Lincoln Continental for the mail. Or some milk. Or something. I wasn’t anywhere near 16. And I still didn’t really know how to drive. But somehow I got there and back without incident. It’s a good thing those old Utah towns have really, REALLY wide roads.

I can still tell you where the floor creaked and recall the stories my Dad told about how it was so cold in the winter that his jeans would be frozen in the morning in the same shape they were when he took them off the night before.

The house in town belongs to someone else now. So does most of the ranch. The family kept part of the ranch in the family and now we semi-regularly drive our kids through Randolph and around the windy red-dirt ranch road through the sagebrush to the annual family reunion.

We made fewer treks to my maternal grandmother’s home. Because one, our help wasn’t required for branding season and two, many more miles and therefore many more hours were required to get to their San Diego home. But those visits were filled with trips to the beach, Tijuana (back when it was safe to go to Tijuana) Sea World, San Diego Zoo and, later, the wild animal park. (I’m fairly certain my sister and I rode a baby elephant in one of those places one time. I remember this mostly because some long-lost photo told me it happened. And since that was long before Photoshop, I can trust what the photo says is true.)

I never knew that house quite as well as I knew the Randolph house, but what I remember most is how my remarkably fastidious grandmother never complained (at least in front of us) about the mountains of sand we must have tracked in on our feet and in our clothes and our hair every time we came home from the beach and also how she liked to serve ice cream at the end of every day.

That house belongs to someone else now, too. And I haven’t been to San Diego since Luke was in the second grade. But it’s still one of my favorite places in the world.

 

 

 

Angel friends

Some of you may remember when I got a phone call one Saturday morning several months ago. It was from a woman from the St. George area, whom I’d never met. She was somewhat distraught as she informed me that her son was my Zack’s companion in England and that they had been robbed. She assured me I needn’t worry, Zack hadn’t lost anything of value. But her son, who was due to come home in just a couple of weeks, had lost his wallet, ID, money, camera and was in immediate need of assistance. She wasn’t asking for money, but she was wondering if she mailed me a check if I could put the money in Zack’s account and he could make sure it got to her son so he coule replace what he needed. I told her I would be happy to help and that in fact, if she would tell me the amount she was sending, I would deposit the money immediately.

I mentioned something about the incident in social media and immediately offers to help came pouring in. Before I knew it, my kind and generous friends, neighbors and family–including many of you–had donated enough money to replace everything Zack’s companion needed. The next week, when I informed his mother I would be returning her check she was undone. Turns out their family was in the middle of some serious financial difficulties and the donations were more of a blessing than any of us could have imagined. Her gratitude was sincere and overwhelming, but I assured her that it was a blessing for those who had had the opportunity to serve.

A few weeks ago, I was debating a trip to St. George this weekend for Lindsay’s last softball tournament. Since I was just returning from a weekend in Idaho, I had decided to stay home. That evening Zack showed me a wedding announcement we’d received while I was away. It was for this same companion. He was inviting us to his wedding reception the same weekend as Lindsay’s tournament. I quickly changed my mind and we planned to surprise him by actually showing up at the reception.

The look on his face was priceless first as he recognized Zack, then as he realized I am Zack’s mother.

I got to meet his mother, who called me her angel, and his father. Both are still so incredibly grateful not just towards me, but towards all of you. It was worth making the trip just for those few moments together and for the opportunity to put faces to the names we had loved and prayed over months earlier.

Thank you again and with all my heart for being being the angels you were to this family. It was a blessing in my life to be a part of it.

5

Five things I will forever love:

Red rocks

Stormy skies

The smell of rain on pavement

That feeling you get when you show up for someone, especially when they least expect it

Jammies and a nice warm bed.

 

Fly on the wall

I.

A younger coworker was telling us some of the things her mother said to her that she swore she would never say and that weren’t especially true.

“Don’t roll your eyes like that, they will get stuck in the top of your head!” I interjected.

Which is why I always tell my daughter,

“Do. Not. Mess. With. The. Queen.”

Because I am the Queen of the Eyeroll.

And living proof that your eyes will not, in fact, get stuck in the top of your head.

The conversation continued. We wondered about the source of the eyeroll as an expression of all that it confesses. It was decided that wherever and whenever it commenced, the originator was most certainly a teenage girl. And the conversation turned to mothers and daughters. Of course I was speaking as the mother of a 17yo daughter. And my coworker was speaking as the grownup daughter of her mother.

“It gets better,” I assured her.

“I know. My mom has gotten SO much better!” she replied.

Perspective is everything.

 

II.

Conversation around the dinner table happened upon the ending of sentences in a preposition.

“So you can’t end your sentence in ‘of.’”

“And you can’t end your sentence in ‘from.’”

“So you shouldn’t say ‘Where are you from.’”

“But it sounds a bit pretentious to say, ‘From where are you?’”

“From where hail you?”

“From whence hail thee?”

“Fine. How about, ‘Just where the h3LL are you from?’”

Frankenstein’s Castle

I’m proud to announce we were once again the winners of the office Halloween decorating contest. This year’s theme was Frankenstein’s Castle. My pics don’t do it justice, but, as always, no one knows how to run a theme into the ground like the Profiling Department.

This is one of my favorite parts. Props to my friend LaRee. These notes and diagrams were spread throughout the room in various scenes. Her dad is a doctor, so she’s got the doctor’s mad handwriting down.

This is the door to our department manager’s office. When we took the Halloween decorations down, we left this up. It may stay on year-around.

Frank. Not pictured very well, the bloody tablecloth under him. My favorite part is the rusty bloody saw.

Not pictured very well, more mad scribbles from the mad Dr. Frankenstein.

Pickled baby’s foot. EWWW. Apparently it can be de and then rehydrated for next year. Did I say EWWW?

Once again, not pictured very well, mad Dr. notes.

We’ll do just about anything to create a mood. We are leaving the windows up for a bit, since they look so much better than the cold stark off-white of ever-closed mini-blinds

The gallery of family portraits. We’ve got some lookers in our family.

Hope and despair

Sometimes I get text from one of my kids in the middle of the day because all chaos is breaking out at home and they want me to fix it for them.

From work.

I can tell you that nothing I ever have to deal with or fix at work is ever as hard as trying to deal with someone’s crisis at school or at home or wherever.

From work.

Sometimes it’s a big knock-down drag-out fight and things are getting broken that may never get fixed. Or, worse, things are being said that can never be unsaid.

In all caps, of course.

And knowing that this is what is going on at home *while I am at work pains my mother heart. And, already being pained by all the things that I know are already broken and all the things I know can never be unsaid, I feel a little bit of despair.

Sometimes I go home and it doesn’t get any better until I go to bed and surrender (if I’m lucky) to the mind-numbness that is sleep.

Sometimes I go home and I plow through it and I try to be some sort of salve on the wounds of the day and I make dinner even though the kitchen is a disaster (you know, because I wasn’t home) and we eat together (or mostly together) and sometimes (but not always) breaking bread together helps just a little bit.

And sometimes a little bit later one of the kids that was fighting asks the other one if he or she wants to watch a movie together. And even though are other places to be and homework to be done, **I let them.

When that happens, hope replaces dispair.

All together again after nearly four years apart

Sometimes Sunday evenings are the best

I love my kids, especially when they collectively and spontaneously decide to strike a pose for awkward family photos at the family reunion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lest ye judge:

*1. I am working outside the home after being a SAHM for 17 years and because the spirit told me I should apply for this job. And when I almost quit the job the spirit told me I should not quit it, so I stayed. 2. I used to work only the hours my kids were in school, so I was still, in a sense, a SAHM. That changed over the summer, when I had to increase my hours and I am still struggling with my my work-life balance.

**Sometimes, particularly when you have teenagers, being a mom is about making hard choices. Maybe one of these days I will write more about some of the hard choices I make (see above).

Golden Jubilee

Sometimes I wonder what happened to all the tail-end baby boomers. I do have a couple of friends my age or close to my age, but most of my friends are 10 or so years older than me or 10-15 years younger than me. The advantage is I learn a lot from watching those further down the road than I am. And I don’t (generally) feel (or act) my age.

One of the things I observed as I watched my older friends, was an almost universal avoidance of the half-century mark (which, for some reason, sounds SO much older than FIFTY). Nearly every one of them went out of town for their respective 50th birthdays. Not in a celebratory way, but quietly. They did not want to talk about or acknowledge it in any way.

And so, quite some time ago, I decided to not go quietly into the next half-century. I am going to embrace my advancing age and enter the next half century with gratitude, joy and optimism.

November kind of snuck up on me, so I missed the 50-days-to-50 countdown (oops). But nonetheless I have a few ideas in mind of several ways–maybe I can even come up with 50–to celebrate 50. Most of them are close to my heart and don’t need to be revealed. I may even accept suggestions (feel free to submit yours in the comments). One of them is being carried out right here on my blog, http://compulsivewriter.com/, as I plan to compulsively write or record 50 stories from my life experiences (thank you NoBloPoMo for getting me off to a decent start) thus far, both past and present.

Thank you for reading and for being an important part of my journey.

Little girl me. You’ve come a long way, baby.

 

Snow Day

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we saw a lot more rain than snow. In fact, we just saw a good deal of rain, period. We were those towns at which Utahns like to poke fun because just a skiff of snow is cause for a Snow Day. Which was the source of two family traditions:

First, it was customary for my mother, who was always up first, to announce the snow with Christmas carols playing loudly through the house. Now that I think about it, it seems odd that it never started snowing during the day. I just remember waking up to Christmas carols on the rare morning of a Snow Day. I wanted to carry on that tradition, and I have. But it’s gotten a bit tricky in recent years. It seems (at least until this year) that snow was later and later or rarer and rarer and sometimes it was so close to Christmas I just had to start playing the Christmas music without the snow. I’ll tell you this, though:  there is no better mood setter for Christmas music than the backdrop of a winter wonderland

Second, and with great anticipation, we set about trying to ascertain whether or not the schools would close, thus making it a true Snow Day. I grew up in before we had texting, cell phones, email, Internet or local morning news on TV. We relied on the local radio stations to announce which districts would be closing for that day. We lived a good 6 miles out of town which was another good 20 miles out of the city that housed the local station (in other words, we were down at the bottom of the totem pole and couldn’t always even be sure they would bother mentioning our district). So we had all the radios on the house on and would listen unabashedly hopefully for the name of our district.

Of course now I live in Utah we can get inches and actual feet and my kids have no concept of a Snow Day.

It’s a good thing today was Saturday, so I could call the Snow Day myself!

Friday it rained, it slushed, it hailed. And then it began to snow

(Still Friday) My excitement built as the snow finally started sticking on the ground!

A hush fell on the neighborhood as the snow started to accumulate. It was a cold and quiet night, but the brightness of the snow kept the dark away. We woke up to this today!

I hearby declare it Snow Day!